Professor Jooyoung Lee recently authored an Op Ed in the Toronto Star discussing the diminishing reputation of the Toronto police force as more news emerges about the Bruce McArthur investigation. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the St. George campus. His research interests include gun violence and he has taught classes on the sociology of serial murders.
Toronto police risk permanent damage to community trust
The Toronto Police Service will need to come clean, admit to its shortcomings, and reach out to the communities that it has alienated across the city.
By Jooyoung Lee
Mon., March 12, 2018
.....I have spent the last decade observing firsthand what happens in cities where police have lost the trust of communities. My research in gangland “South Central” Los Angeles and in Philadelphia’s underground drug markets reveals how communities become alienated from the police — these are places where any perceived affiliation with the cops is frowned upon and sometimes punishable by violence.
Although Toronto is certainly not suffering from the same levels of violence I observed in these communities, there is cause for concern moving forward. If the police don’t clear the air and make amends to communities that feel betrayed by them, people will become less likely to report crimes and co-operate with them during investigations. There are already communities in Toronto where this “code of silence” exists. We don’t want this to spread.
The pioneering Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman, spent much of his career writing about spoiled reputations. He showed that people work hard at managing public impressions because negative reputations are so durable. Once seen in a negative light, it becomes difficult for a person to reestablish themselves as trustworthy and morally upstanding. To make amends, Goffman argued, people have to show they can be trusted again in the future.
Even though Goffman was writing about individuals, he can help us understand the challenges ahead for Toronto police. TPS will need to come clean, admit to its shortcomings, and reach out to the communities that it has alienated across the city. These include the LGBTQ community, racialized communities, and citizens who are concerned about how they’ve handled the McArthur investigation....